Initially, fans -- who were scattered throughout the first level on the first-base side -- seemed a bit subdued. However, when 23-year-old Gerrit Cole began to mow down St. Louis hitters quickly and easily, the energy level inside the ballpark picked up. The top overall selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft allowed two hits and one run in six innings, and he also got the Pirates on the scoreboard with an RBI single in the second.
"First of all, you have to love a pitcher who can hit," said Ron Flynn, a Bucs supporter from nearby Bloomfield, Pa. "The kid has got confidence beyond what most guys his age have. That's why the Pirates drafted him where they did."
Though there was brilliant sunshine throughout the game, the view on the video board was remarkably clear. That meant fans saw perfectly the two-run homer Pedro Alvarez hit off Lance Lynn in the third inning to increase Pittsburgh's lead to 3-0.
A couple innings later, when the advantage had grown to 5-0, Chris Presutti, a Pirates enthusiast from Pittsburgh's North Hills said: "I like this. I hope they do this for every road [postseason] game. It's very relaxing without a huge crowd. I also like it when they have a big lead. That lets me relax and enjoy the game."
Manager Clint Hurdle's squad rebounded nicely from the 9-1 loss to the Cards the night before, and those on hand at PNC Park on Friday are looking forward to the NLDS coming to Pittsburgh for Game 3 (Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET, TBS) and Game 4 (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, TBS).
"People are optimistic," said Joshua Riley, who was serving up beverages at one of the ballpark's bars out in the right-field corner. "The Pirates play a lot better when they're here, especially with all the energy the fans have been bringing this year."
The Pirates sold out a club-record 23 contests during the regular season, and the crowd of 40,487 fans who attended the NL Wild Card Game against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night was a single-game record for 13-year-old PNC Park.
Friday afternoon's gathering was a tiny fraction of that number, but the fans were enthusiastic nonetheless. When closer Jason Grilli was on the mound in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium, the fans at PNC Park were all standing, clapping, chanting "Let's Go Bucs" and several were waving the increasingly popular "Raise the Jolly Roger" flags.
"This is fantastic," said Catherine Hepner of nearby Bellevue, who was in attendance with her 89-year-old mother, Ruth Pollock. "My mom took me to the 1979 World Series [which Pittsburgh won] and we're looking for World Series seats for her in case they make it that far. She's the No. 1 Pirates fan."
Right now, a lot of folks are making that claim.